Wondrous way to desalinate water wins Desal Prize

24 Apr 2015

Who would have thought desalination needed such clever ideas? Well the ideas are so clever that a team has just won US$140,000 for its brilliantly simple, fossil-fuel free, approach.

The winners were a combination of MIT students and a company called Jain Irrigation Systems.

Their clever creation was a photovoltaic-powered electrodialysis reversal (EDR) system that desalinates water using electricity to pull charged particles out of the water and further disinfect using ultraviolet rays.

The system was designed for low-energy consumption, limiting costs, especially in off-grid areas. In regular English, they essentially worked out how to use solar power to separate the salt from the water.

Solar panels charge a raft of batteries, which power the electrodialysis system – this means dissolved particles of salt, which actually have a minute electrical charge, can be removed from the water by installing a slight electrical charge.

The use of UV rays then disinfects the water, making it drinkable or, perhaps more importantly, useable on crops.

“By 2050, global water demand is expected to increase by 55 percent, and 70 percent of global water use occurs in food production,” said Christian Holmes, global water coordinator with the US Agency for International Development.

His organisation, along with a range of other stakeholders, supported the competition, which will be awarding significant funding sums for similar creations in the near future.

“The Desal Prize was developed to supply catalytic funding to capture and support the innovative ideas and new technologies that could have a significant impact.”

Salt water image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic